Look at medical risks and benefits

A new study shows that menopausal women are influenced by a surprising variety of factors in deciding whether to use hormone replacement therapy. Straight medical benefits and risks are not the only things under consideration for this important medical decision. By far, hysterectomy was the largest factor, with 59 percent of the women who had undergone hysterectomies choosing hormone replacement therapy, compared with 20 percent of those who had not.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last week, was based on a survey of 495 women aged 50 to 74. Results showed that 38 percent of all subjects used hormones after menopause.

Other factors which influenced the women’s decision to use hormone replacement therapy include education (college graduates were more likely) and geographic location. Doctors are concerned about the influence of these factors, which are not relevant in making what is a serious medical decision.

Factors such as heart disease risk are much more relevant to the decision, and should be carefully evaluated by each woman in conjunction with her doctor. Doctors commenting on the study emphasized that the results show a need for further rearch into the effects and benefits of hormone therapy.

The results also underline the need for much more intense education efforts in this area, especially as a growing number of women reach menopause, with the aging baby boom generation hitting 50.